Mecklenburg politics was pretty much a man’s world in the 1970s. Liz Hair was a big force in changing that. She died this week at 94.
Hair got elected to the county commission in 1974. But she had long been involved in politics. She worked on campaigns for Democrats, was appointed to the Mecklenburg Board of Elections and helped form the Charlotte Women’s Political Caucus along with her friend Betty Chapin Rash.
“She was a little timid at first, but she was committed to getting more women involved in the public policy making process and she realized that was the way to do it, to run for and get elected to political office,” says Rash.
She ended up serving as chairman of the commission and even brought homemade cookies to those first meetings to win over her male colleagues.
But Hair meant business. She got Democrats and Republican on board to push for an expansion of the airport. George Battle Jr. was one of the people she tapped. He says Hair had a way of winning over people.
“She had a swagger and a kindness about her that when she spoke to you she looked at you dead in the eye and you knew when she told you something it was the truth,” says Battle.
Hair served two terms on the county commission, but decided not to run after that. Rash says it was a good decision, since it allowed her to focus on education and programs for women and children.
Hair served on the UNC Charlotte Board of Trustees and the state board of community colleges. She championed the creation of a battered women’s shelter and a stand-alone County Mental Health Center and she kept encouraging women to run for office, including Rash who was elected to the Charlotte City Council in 1977.
“I can’t imagine I would’ve done it without the experience that I had in managing her campaign and learning it at her knees, so to speak, how to do it, and then her encouragement, ‘Yeah you can do it Betty.”’